Category Archives: Guest Lessons

“How to be a gardener.” A guest lesson by Monise Brabham.

So they say gardening is therapeutic, right? You’d really have to ask my husband, since he’s the gardener/landscaper in the family. He works really hard to keep our flowerbeds looking beautiful. There was one time I felt compelled to help him get all those pesky little weeds out. Sadly, I didn’t realize what I had signed up for until after I had sat down and really looked at the ridiculous amount of weeds that had pretty much overtaken our used-to-be-beautiful flowerbeds. At that point I was thinking, “Uh………therapeutic???” Nope, labor intensive!

For the next several hours, I sat and pulled all of the weeds out. Honestly, what kept me going was the image of beauty restored in our flowerbeds. I began to think about the other benefit of pulling the weeds: weeds not only look bad, but they can choke out life in the flowers because they compete with the flowers for water and nutrients. Ultimately and most importantly, overcrowding would be inevitable if we never pulled out weeds.

Makes sense and seems simple, right? Well now I’m forced to cross reference these simple benefits with my life. Imagine going through your life never cleaning out your closet and getting rid of old clothes, never getting rid of old papers or old technology, never leaving behind old thought processes—and of course—relationships. I begin to think about the amount of space in my life being used on things I don’t use or benefit from.

Going through the daily motions of life, we become unconscious collectors of relationships, issues, emotions, decisions, and things. There is so much power in taking inventory of our lives. Once we do this, we begin to realize just how overgrown our very own “flowerbeds” are. This means we have little to no room for growth. We’re blocking opportunities, self improvement, knowledge, beneficial relationships—and most importantly—becoming a better you.

You have two options. You can choose to ignore all the extra, unnecessary luggage you’re carrying around, and slow yourself down. Or, you can choose to invest your time in de-cluttering.

1. Inspect your relationships closely. While it’s true that not every person has to bring added value to your journey, they should definitely be a positive influence in your life. If that’s not the case, begin the process of shedding the naysayers, pessimists, leeches, and joy stealers, and fill that new space with people who are for you and want you to win.

2. Evaluate your negative emotion meter. Are you holding onto regret, animosity, anger, or fear? Remember: if you think it you become it. Let go and in comes a new perspective. This is the best way to stop blocking your blessings.

3. Purge those closets, drawers, and even under the bed. If you haven’t worn it in the past two seasons, chances are you won’t ever wear it again. Donate everything in that pile and reward yourself with two new outfits to go with the new you that is bound to occur if you truly take the time to pull the weeds in your life.

When you do all of these things, you will have more mental clarity, positive energy, and space for all the good things coming your way.

-Lesson by Monise Brabham-

“It isn’t easy.” A guest lesson by Michael Galfetti.

I’m tired of people thinking things will be easy.

I feel like people think “once I get my dream job” or “once I meet the right person” or “once I find God” that life will be easy.

But that isn’t true.

Being in love with your soulmate will not be easy.

Discovering who you are will not be easy.

Being caring and open will not be easy.

But the thing is—you will not be satisfied with an easy life.

The challenge is what makes life all the better.

Here’s the thing: life is hard.

But don’t ever let it stop you from doing what you want.

In fact,

life being difficult probably means you are doing something right.

-Lesson by Michael Galfetti-

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Michael Galfetti is a junior at George Mason University studying Government and International Politics. The picture was taken on his study abroad in El Salvador (that is also where he gained the perspective that allowed him to write this blog post). Where he learned about women’s fight for their rights in the country. He has an interest in working internationally and recognizes the role the West plays in international development. You can find him on twitter at @spaghetigalfeti.

 

“Timing…” A guest lesson by MaRae Fleming.

Often times, we get caught up in planning our lives out.  There is nothing wrong with planning and figuring out what we want to do with out lives, but when it begins to consume us, that is when it creates a serious problem.

For a longtime I just felt stuck. No matter what I tried to do, it just seemed like I wasn’t making any progress. I was planning my life out like crazy but nothing was happening. I was at a complete standstill and it was the most frustrating thing ever. One day I had just started writing in a new journal and for me it symbolized a fresh start. I wrote an open letter to God fully surrendering everything to him. From that moment my situation changed.

You can’t expect God to fix your situation when you’re still trying to control it. Sometimes God puts you in certain places to get you where He wants you to be. You are exactly where you’re supposed to be right now. Stop trying to rush your process! Everything happens when it is supposed to.

Timing is everything.

-Lesson by MaRae Fleming-

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MaRae Fleming is a sassy and fabulous young woman making her own path on the world while pursuing her dreams!  She is a college student, blogger, and lover of all things fabulous. You can catch her sharing about fashion, natural hair, and her journey through life on her blog The Always Fabulous.

“What is rest? A question from the girl with mono.” A guest lesson by Nikki Gregg.

I am one to work hard all the time, without stopping. A lot of us do. During the semester, my days were no shorter than thirteen hours. This summer my hours are just as long.

I work hard. I work hard all the time. I push myself to the limit and then crash when the semester ends or the midterms are over, but something happened this week that threw me a curveball. I was diagnosed with mono yesterday, which is forcing me to take time to slow down and truly rest.

I found out my sore throat, aching body, extreme exhaustion, and little appetite for the last week was more than the common cold, but a serious virus that will take me weeks or months to get over. While I was working at my internship and serving tables at a restaurant in the city, it wasn’t until a week after feeling terrible before making time to see a doctor.…who told me exactly how sick I am.

She told me I needed to rest, but seriously…what is rest? I have been so caught up in hard work so that I can be successful. I have to get this grade on this test. I need to get this job, this internship. If I don’t do this or this I won’t get into graduate school. The list goes on and on, and as time goes on… the days of rest, nights of relaxation, and my time to do things that give me joy have all become restricted from the limitation of time.

Well, now I have all the time in the world to figure out what rest looks like, feels like again. In our culture most of us don’t know what it means to fully rest. We go on little hours of sleep, and push ourselves so hard that we run ourselves down, and ignore what our bodies are telling us. We ignore needs like food, to make meetings and study for tests. I know someone who didn’t make enough time to shower during midterms of her freshman year. I remember one midterm week that I was so hysterical from sleep deprivation I was walking in circles around campus.

This is not normal. We need sleep. Food. Good Hygiene.

So while you may not have mono but if you feel run-down, exhausted, overwhelmed…join me in taking some time to rest for yourself. Your mind. Your body. Your overall health.

To be better, to be there for other people… we must take care of ourselves first.

-Lesson by Nikki Gregg-

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“Listen to the guy that was friends with a volleyball… I’m not kidding.” A guest lesson by Lauren Makely. 

I remember waking up in my bed the morning after I found out my mom had passed away from her long and tough battle with cancer and thinking:

“Do I get up?”

“Do I stay here?”

“Can my body even lift itself off the bed?”

“How am I even still breathing?”

It took me a great deal of time to understand how I could’ve possibly woken up that morning when the reason I existed no longer did.

Yet there I was, staring at the ceiling of my bedroom eight hours after my worst fear had come true. I wasn’t crying or angry. I just lay there watching the sun peak out of the bottom of my shade.

Weirdly enough, this little ray of light reminded me of a line from the movie Cast Away (Yes the one with Tom Hanks), a movie my brother and I had watched an embarrassing amount of times growing up,

“So now I know what I have to do. I have to keep breathing. And tomorrow the sun will rise, and who knows what the tide will bring in.”

As cheesy as it sounds, this is the moment I think I decided how I would live the rest of my life. This moment I decided I was going to make it out of my bed. I decided I wasn’t going to break.

This is the moment I decided I was going to keep moving.

However, this didn’t mean I was just going to go through life like a zombie. I was going to keep reaching for my dreams and working hard to do everything I set my mind to, just like my mom had taught me to do for the last 20 years. I decided I was going to grab ahold of my passion and never let it slip from my grasp because in the end, no matter how often we forget, we never really know what the tide will bring or wash away.

The lesson here is to get up, brush yourself off when the world knocks you down, and keep going. No matter how scared or uncertain you are about what lies ahead, let it inspire you.

Let it inspire you to live more freely,

Live more positively,

Succeed in what makes you happy,

Take chances,

And love harder.

Since that moment, I’ve continued to make strides in school, discover incredible friendships, meet influential people, land my dream internship, discover more about the person I want to be in the future, and yes…. fight more battles, but all the while keeping in mind, “you’re going to make it because you’ve made it this far.”

All things mama would be proud of and I know she’s has had a part in thus far.

So next time you’re asking yourself whether to get out of bed or not, just remember that you have to live through the toughest of days and struggle through the toughest of moments to get to the best of your life.

Lesson by Lauren Makely.

GetAttachment.aspxLauren Makely is a coffee powered human being with a slight obsession with morning talk shows. She is a human rights activist entering her senior year at James Madison University, finishing her Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Anthropology. When she grows up she wants to influence policy and fight for the rights of women and girls facing gender-based violence, because every empowered girl leads to a better world.

“Tell yourself you can.” A guest lesson by Kandace Florence.

Chasing your dreams can be an exciting, terrifying, and insanely complicated task.

The toughest battle I had to fight was trusting myself. You can’t be persuaded by outside opinion, whether that be friends, family, or even your significant other. This is especially true in a creative field—because chances are they won’t get it but that’s OK. You know what you want to do, so just do it.

Everyday I had to tell myself that I can be successful, no matter what anyone thinks. And after I told myself that I worked hard through the obstacles I came across.

Now that I’ve finished school, I’m like: ” WOW I ACTUALLY DID THAT!”

Even though the process was HELL and there were days I felt like I couldn’t make it to the finish line, I just had to stick with it and trust myself.

Your dreams ARE possible.

Tell yourself you can.

-Lesson by Kandace Florence-

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Kandace Florence is a recent graduate of the Fashion Institute of Merchandise and Design in Los Angeles, California. She loves and plans to work in the fashion and beauty industry.

“I forgot to floss today: A lesson on living your values.” A guest lesson by Taylor Jackson.

Values… what even are those? What does it mean to value honesty? To value kindness? To value flossing every day?

If I asked you to list every single one of your values, chances are it would be seemingly endless: from social equality to breakfast foods. If someone asked you, “Do you value the ethical treatment of living creatures?” you would likely answer yes. But the real question at hand, is what does it really mean to value something? How would I know you valued the ethical treatment of living creatures if you hadn’t just flat out told me?

What I’ve learned in my whopping 20 years is that there are two different people to every person; there is the person you are, and the person you say you are or the person you would like to be. Our entire lives are spent attempting to close that gap, attempting to push ourselves closer to that ideal self.

Prior to college, never once had I considered the importance of aligning my lifestyle with my values. All through my years, I had been taught the importance of having values and the things that I should value. But nobody ever told me what that entailed. It all looked great on paper, but I didn’t have the substance to back it up.

My first real attempt was 10th grade, when I researched the meat industry. I realized that it was an industry that didn’t align with my values, and I became a vegetarian. Now happily vegan, I look back and see that as my first real move towards closing the gap. My freshman year of college, I had a professor who taught a critical thinking class. The entire class was focused on sustainability, individuality, self-thinking, and values; he essentially created a class that asked people to take a hard look at themselves in the mirror and ask, “Who really am I?” I had never felt so passionate about self-improvement. I began stepping outside of my comfort zone and doing all sorts of things I never would’ve, all for the sake of aligning my life with my values. I valued independence, so I took myself out to dinner and a movie… alone! I valued working on my weaknesses, so I joined an organization that pushed me to be outgoing and conversational. I valued supporting local businesses, so I began going out of my way to always shop and eat local. That class was the real wake up call of what it meant to be an honest person and a good human.

Today, I am a completely different person than I was 2 years ago. Though I value all the same things, I now have substance in my life to show for it. I still have a long way to go, but I feel so much pride and love for the life I live and the person I am.

Compliments on my character or my lifestyle mean so much more than they ever did before. My values are now so much more than just words; they have depth and meaning.

As I mentioned before, your list of values could go on forever. It’s not easy, creating a life that aligns with every single person and every single moment. There are days when I’m whiny or lazy or careless, and those days become my fuel to be better. It’s okay to to be different on different days; our lives are a constant push and pull. The important thing is that you’re working on it.

My hopes in writing this bit is not to make you feel guilty or lazy, but to inspire and empower you to be your best self. As people, we are our own biggest investment, our own personal powerhouse; it’s important to be the best that we can be. It allows us to be better in everything else we do. Go ahead, write a list and think about those values. What are they? What does it mean to live them? And yes, it’s okay to skip flossing every once in awhile.

-Lesson by Taylor Jackson-

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Taylor Jackson studies Communications, Music Industry, and Anthropology at James Madison University. An avid animal rights and environmental activist, Taylor spends her time drinking coffee, looking at Instagram, and devoting herself to serving togethers. She has more hobbies than she needs and her favorite past time is to inspire and be inspired.